God’s voice in the storm—Psalm 29

Psalms of David

Psalms in Book 1 (Psalms 1 to 41) are primarily personal songs, so I will look at how they apply to us personally. Social and communal aspects of life and work do not come in until the later books of Psalms.

A simple song this time, I wish they were all as easy to understand as this. But it’s a strange one to have in the first book, it isn’t a personal psalm. In the First book of Psalms, this only happens when it is linked to another psalm, so wait for Psalm 30 to see how it is linked.

A small flock of birds fly across a dark sky lit up by a lightening bolt. Yje image is reflected in a calm sea.
Photo by Johannes Plenio on Pexels.com

The books of Psalms are roughly themed like this:

Book 1: Psalms 1 – 41: God is beside us.
Book 2: Psalms 42 – 72: God goes before us
Book 3: Psalms 73 – 89: God is all around us.
Book 4: Psalms 90 – 106: God is above us.
Book 5: Psalms 107 – 150: God is among us.

A Psalm of David.

29 Ascribe to the Lord, O heavenly beings,
    ascribe to the Lord glory and strength.
Ascribe to the Lord the glory due his name;
    worship the Lord in the splendour of holiness.

The voice of the Lord is over the waters;
    the God of glory thunders,
    the Lord, over many waters.
The voice of the Lord is powerful;
    the voice of the Lord is full of majesty.
The voice of the Lord breaks the cedars;
    the Lord breaks the cedars of Lebanon.
He makes Lebanon to skip like a calf,
    and Sirion like a young wild ox.
The voice of the Lord flashes forth flames of fire.
The voice of the Lord shakes the wilderness;
    the Lord shakes the wilderness of Kadesh.
The voice of the Lord makes the deer give birth
    and strips the forests bare,
    and in his temple all cry, “Glory!”

10 The Lord sits enthroned over the flood;
    the Lord sits enthroned as king for ever.
11 May the Lord give strength to his people!
    May the Lord bless his people with peace!

Psalm 29 ESVUK

My wife, Linda, and I were travelling home on the night ferry from Zeebrugge to Hull. The North Sea was doing what it often does, as soon as the mighty car ferry was out of the harbour we were being thrown about like a cork. Even so, I managed to get a meal down … for a short while. Once my digestive system was empty I managed to fall asleep.

When I awoke we were in the Humber estuary approaching port. The wind was still blowing, but unlike the North Sea, the Humber was relatively calm. Thankfully my breakfast was not on a return journey. Exhausted by the crossing we were able to get the train home.

The sea, in the Bible, is a wild place. The story of Jonah, being thrown overboard in a storm, and Paul persuading the sailors not to throw him overboard and being shipwrecked on Malta are two of the passages that spring to mind. Then there’s this with Jesus:

22 One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. 23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”

Luke 8:22-25 NIV

The disciples, with experienced sailors amongst them, were scared. This was no ordinary storm. Their fear turned to amazement when Jesus spoke a few words and the winds dropped and the sea went calm. We are not told how pious the Disciples were before they followed Jesus, we don’t know if they would have been familiar with Psalm 29, but if they were they would have known that only God can control the weather like Jesus did. He didn’t pray to God to calm the storm, he ordered it, he rebuked it. According to Psalm 29, only the voice of the Lord can do that, yet the voice of Jesus did the same thing. The disciples were given a lesson into who Jesus is.

The psalm is in three sections, I have added paragraphs to the text to show these sections.

The first section is about the Lord. The Lord is mentioned four times in verses 1 and 2, the second of these also mentions the Lord’s strength.

The last section is about the Lord. The Lord is mentioned four times in verses 10 and 11, the second last of these also mentions the Lord’s strength being given to his people.

The middle, verses 3 to 9, is a poem in its own right, with seven mentions of the voice of the Lord ruling over the chaos of nature. Numbers are significant in Jewish literature with seven, the number of days of creation, signifying completion. The voice of the Lord is over all of creation, written in a creative way.

So let’s put the parts back together.

The angels praise God for his strength, a strength which is stronger than the most powerful things in nature. This strength is given to those who follow God.

< Psalm 28 | Psalm 29 | Psalm 30 >
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